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Chapter 15 : The Modeling Project II: He Didn't Let Her Fall
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Hello everyone :) Welcome back to TOR and I hope this chapter answers your questions on how Aaron's feeling! Ritch will come soon enough, don't worry ;) I won't keep you away from the chapter further, so enjoy xx
People might think it bothers me. That my parents aren't really around anymore. I know about their accident- Aunty Ginny is careful while speaking about it around me with Uncle Harry but I suspect that they know that I know. Was that confusing? Ive been staying over at the Potters' more often than not. And yes, as much as fun as sharing a room with James is, I miss my parents. The Potters know to keep a light on in the dark, they know what I like and don't but I still miss my parents. But again, missing them and getting bothered by it are two different things per se. Missing someone means that they simply... miss their presence. Being bothered by someone means someone has upsetted or disturbed you in some way. But that is not what my parents have done. Don't you for once think that.
I know something has changed. It's in the air. And not just father leaving that woman... no, there's something else entirely. Its as if they don't understand where they are... is that possible? Am I just being weird? Am I overanalyzing things? Perhaps not. I understand that they need time to figure things out. I haven't seen them share a hug, a kiss, anything... Its nice seeing them sleep in the same room again though. Perhaps they aren't prepared to go back into a full relationship.
But then I think- they're married. They're as into a relationship as possible. Then what has changed? Which brings me back to my previous conclusion- it's like they don't understand where they are.
I can see that they love me. It's blatantly obvious. They're always around me, enveloping me in hugs and love. So I am not bothered, no. Both are having a modeling project these three days. It's the second day today. Aunty Ginny took me to yesterday's event with her. It's not the first time Ive seen them walk the ramp- but it's been a very long time since I've seen them do it together. Mum seemed a bit nervous- perhaps it's because she hasn't modeled in a long time. But all the same, she was beautiful.
I miss them. I really do hope that sometime soon we spend some time together as a family. I know that they are not in love at the moment. I honestly don't understand "where" they are... But I hope with all my heart that they fall in love again. Just as they used to be. At least before the baby is born... I am very excited indeed to be finally having a little sister or brother. Truly very excited. Finding out about the accident scared everything I had out of me... I couldn't afford to lose my family. Of course, there is our entire extended family there for me- Uncle Ron, Aunty Ginny, Uncle Harry, Blaise (who refuses to let me call him uncle because he claims that it makes him sound old) , Aunty Pansy and Aunty Hayley and everybody else- but still. They are my family. My parents. They mean my entire little five year old world to me.
I shall wait. For as long as it takes. But I know in my heart that our family will come together again. We're stronger than just breaking apart so easily. Much stronger. We'll come out of it. And my waiting will be rewarded.
But while I wait, I shall not be sad- I shall enjoy my time with the Potters- because I know my parents wouldn't want it any other way. And I wouldn't want them thinking that I am upset because of them. Because contrary to popular belief, I am not.
* * * *
Hermione looked at herself for the final time in the mirror in front of her. She was dressed in a floor-length gown like yesterday except this one was much heavier to carry. It had a black silk as it's first layer, it's second was actually made up of three different alternating frilly layers of black, maroon and creme- red as the bodice and the alternating colors as the skirt. The red fabric reached a few inches below her collarbone and overlapped the base black layer which stretched into the halter neck of the dress, connected behind her neck. Her hair had been curled completely, much to Draco's dismay and piled up neatly high up at the back of her head. Her eyelids had been done with a matching maroon and her eyelashes were again accented with dark mascara. A pretty shade of red had been applied to her lips and cheeks. Her feet were clad in heels similar to yesterday's except black this time. In very simple words, she looked fierily beautiful.
Someone whistled from the door in appreciation and Hermione spun towards it's direction to see Draco entering the room.
"Do I look okay?"
"You're dressed in your bloody Griffindor colours- you're more than okay", Draco said.
"These aren't Griffindor colours- it's maroon, not red. There's a-"
"Yeah, yeah, spare me the lecture on colours and let's go. Your walk is in exactly three minutes. I was asked to come get you. Are you ready?"
"I feel more confident because yesterday went so well but today I won't... I won't... Have..."
"Me?" He completed in a questioning manner. She looked up and was surprised to see that there was no arrogance on his face. Okay, there was a little arrogance but there was mainly genuine curiosity.
She took a deep breathe and said, "Yes, Malfoy. You. I won't have you today."
"That flatters me and all, Granger, but trust me- you'll do fine, okay?" He said and he honestly thought she would.
"This dress is a little heavy, what if-"
"Don't be pessimistic. It'll be fine. We trained with a dress like this and it wasn't much lighter than this one."
"That wasn't a halter neck!" She protested.
"Its not much different", He responded calmly.
He strode forward and placed his hands reassuringly on her shoulders.
"Listen to me. You'll be great up there. Just like yesterday except I won't be there. It won't make much of a difference though. You would have been perfectly fine without me yesterday too. Okay?"
She nodded nervously. "And if-"
"If anything goes wrong, I'm right there- backstage. I'll come there and help you in any way I can. I'll be right there for you." She nodded, a little more confident now that she knew he would be there. Not beside her, but near.
When the hell has she begun relying on Draco Malfoy so much...?
In what felt like no time at all, she was stepping onto the main stage, her hands elegantly placed on her hips. With one last "good luck" from Draco, she began her walk.
She moved just as the Malfoys and Ginny had taught her. Gracefully but with a certain kind of dominating force. She owned the stage in those few moments.
She was half way throughout the middle and was about to take a step forward when she suddenly heard a snap behind her neck.
She froze. Shit. Shit. Shit. This was not happening! She stood rooted to the spot as the two parts of the fabric that had been connected behind her neck came sliding down her shoulders and down her front. She managed to hold it up just before it fell and revealed anything.
Everyone had stopped clapping and stared at her, jaws dropped open and eyes wide. Hermione Granger had NEVER had a wardrobe malfunction. She had NEVER messed up. And if she had, she used to cover it up with a dazzling smile, she'd change her posture and continue with the walk down the ramp. Yet there she stood, frozen, tears welling up in her eyes, unable to move anything except her eyes that went from side to side, scanning the place- assessing the embarrassing, humiliating situation.
She felt a tear slide down her cheek. Cameras were flashing all around her, capturing her in this state.
She was just about to get her feet to work and turn around and run away when a pale hands went around her neck from behind and took the two ends of the fabric and held it together at the back.
"I told you I'd be right there for you."
She turned her head to the side, only to look straight into silvery blue eyes. He shook his head firmly and whispered, "Don't cry, Granger. Hold it in." she pursed her lips, trying to hold back the sobs threatening to escape her throat.
"Don't cry." He repeated, shaking his head. He was clasping together the two ends in his right hand and held out his left hand to her side, "Give me your hand." Hesitating a little, she put her left hand in his left, not once taking her eyes off his face.
"Now place your right hand on your hip", He murmured, looking ahead of him and the crowd and flashing a dazzling smile that momentarily made the audience forget Hermione's malfunction.
"Granger, put your hand on your hip like your normal walk was supposed to be, look ahead and look confident, hold your head high and finish the walk."
"I-I c-can't", She choked, her tears threatening to spill out.
"Look at me," He said, shifting his gaze away from the audience and looking straight into her eyes, "Look into my eyes and tell me- do I look like I'm going to let anything more happen to you?" She stared into his eyes and kept silent, knowing that he wouldn't.
"Hold back the tears and keep walking- ill be there with you every step", He said, not removing his eyes from her's. She pursed her lips, trying to hold back the sob that was threatening to escape her throat and nodded.
She placed her right hand loosely on her hip and looked ahead of her.
"Don't let me fall", She said in a strangled whisper, repeating the first words from their first walk.
"Never", He said, tightening his grip on her left hand. She held on tightly and took a step forward.
"That's it, keep going", He said encouragingly, "You can do this. Your future self isn't a top model for no reason."
She took another step forward and then another, Draco by her side and walking with her, not once loosening his grip on her hand or the strap connection behind her neck.
Hermione held her head high, blinked back the tears and took a confident step forward again, walking as she was taught earlier. She could do this. They walked together to the front of the ramp and with every step, the audience applause got louder and judging by the looks on the designers' and other spectator's faces, they were extremely impressed.
Draco turned with her to one side and then the other, showing off the side profiles of the dress. They then turned and continued walking till they were halfway through.
"The back profile.. what now?" Hermione asked, nervously.
"Now you just trust me", He said. He spun her around so that they were facing the audience. He then held her where she was and began circling her, hands where they were. As soon as he was in front of her, blocking her from everyone, he let go of the two ends and confidently brought his hand in front and placed it against the front of her dress, below her collarbone, so it wouldn't slide down. Still holding her left hand with his own, he began walking around her so that she turned with his walk. She was now with her back to the audience, the entire back profile of her dress exposed and the two ends hanging limply around her neck.
All throughout this, Hermione couldn't get her eyes off his face. He worked confidently, his eyes filled with concentration and determination to make sure nothing goes wrong. They were now standing, facing each other, her right hand on her hip as it was and her left hand in his. She looked down at their connected hands and then back to his face. He was staring right at her, their eyes were locked within each other's.
She suddenly snapped out of it and turned her head to the side, as she was supposed to on her original walk. She tried her level best to ignore the man in front of her. She tried her best to calm her nerves and slow her heart beat down, which was bursting against her ribcage, beating at an unnaturally fast pace.
"Breathe, Granger", His voice whispered into her ear. So close to her ear, she could feel his cool breathe against it. But she did what he said. She took a deep breathe. She breathed everything in. The audience's approving looks, the loose straps around her shoulder, the dress hugging her body and pooling at the floor, her hair tied up neatly, camera flashes almost blinding her even while they were behind her, the hand against the front of her dress holding it up, the warm fingers around hers, the dashingly good looking man standing so close to her, his strong cologne, everything.
He suddenly spun her around again, confidently holding the two ends back together with one hand and not once letting go of her hand with his other.
"And smile", He breathed, so close to her. He didn't know why his heart was beating this way. Why standing so close to her was doing things to him. It was Hermione Granger for Merlin's sake! He shook his head and followed his own command, as did she. He was just a hormonal teenager... Thats all.
Both displayed dazzling smiles at the audience, turned, and he lead her off the ramp.
Once they were inside the dressing room, they were the only ones there as everyone else was waiting to go back outside.
Draco let go of the back of her dress once she had her hand firmly against the front. She slumped into one of the chairs and put her forehead against her free hand's palm.
"Bloody hell", She muttered.
"You can say that again", He said, standing in front of her.
She lifted her head and her eyes met his.
"Thank you", She said, "I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't been there."
Draco nodded. He opened his mouth to pass a sarcastic, mocking comment but closed it immediately when he saw her eyes fill up with tears.
"Goddamit, Draco", She said, a tear flowing down her cheek, "I don't belong up there." It seemed to have completely slipped her mind that she had used his first name and there he stood, mouth open at hearing his name roll off her tongue so naturally.
"I froze so badly. I had no idea what to do", She said, her voice breaking, "How did I end up a bloody model? I just... I just don't belong there..."
"Thats not true", He said, "You aren't your future self, who knows what happened in seven years? Look at me." She looked up, her eyes filled with tears.
"You are one of the top models in the Wizarding world, Granger", He said. He wasn't ready to "Hermione" her yet. "There must have been a bloody damn good reason for that. You just haven't seen it yet, yeah? Its something your future holds and it'll come to you as everything else will when we actually live those missed seven years."
His eyes held nothing but honesty and she nodded, "I guess so... Im just... I don't know... I feel so pathetic."
"Dont, you're today's showstopper for Merlin's sake and plus, this isn't a Radeels show or anything, it's a brand that's just making it's appearance. No one blames you.. It happens, wardrobe malfunctions. It happens at least once in a modeling career. Its how you handle it that counts. Now come on, get up- we have to get back up there for the final walk."
"Are you mental?" Hermione exclaimed, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand, "I am not going back up there!"
"Granger, it's your final walk and you've to make it with me ANYWAY! Im not going to let anything happen to you okay? I promise", He said the last two words softly. She kept silent for a few seconds and then nodded.
"What do I do about the dress though?" She asked, standing up.
"Okay, magic can't fix it- its magic proof so that no one can mess with it", Draco said, "A pin won't hold it, it's too thick. Hairclip!"
He strode forward, yanked open one of the dresser's drawers and shuffled around it's contents, pulling out a long, firm hair clip.
"Turn", He said, stepping towards her and moving his index finger in a circular motion, gesturing her to turn her back to him. She did as he said and holding the two ends together, he slid the pin through the junction.
"Okay, its way to visible", He said, "Let go of the front, it won't fall." Hermione slowly let go and just as he said, it didn't slip off. She turned her back to the mirror and made a face at the handiwork of the connection.
"Maybe if i let my hair down, it won't be seen?" She suggested.
"We can't let it down completely, it won't look good", Draco said, "Lets see what we can do". He pulled up a chair and placed it in front of him, back facing him, "Sit." She sat down and after a long look at her knotted hair, he got to work.
He started by carefully undoing the bottom half of the bun so that all the hair below came loose while the top half stayed where it was.
"Mr.Malfoy- you're up in a minute with Hermione", A lady said, poking her head into the room.
"We'll be right there", Draco called, not taking his eyes off what he was doing. He grabbed a comb from the dresser and combed the lower half down so that it flowed down her back in thick curls, neatly covering up the straps. He snatched a spray up from the table and said, "Shut your eyes." She did as she was told and he sprayed the contents all over the area from where he had loosened the bottom of her hair from.
"Okay, done, lets go", Draco said, tossing the can to the side. Hermione opened her eyes and looked into the mirror. Thankfully, she looked at gorgeous as before.
"God, woman- you look beautiful- let's go!" Draco said, walking towards the entrance to the ramp. Hermione's jaw dropped open- had Draco Malfoy just told her she looked beautiful straight out... AGAIN? She smirked at herself in the mirror and followed Draco to the ramp.
"You both are up in five-" The lady from earlier began counting down.
Draco held his arm out and Hermione took it.
"Relax, Granger", Draco said.
"Two... One.... You're up."
They began walking out on to the ramp and as soon as the audience came into view, Draco's hold on Hermione's hand tightened. They walked the entire way to the front, where the other models had split to the sides, making way for them.
The audience broke into applause and cameras flashed in front of them. The two smiled and bowed curtly. Hermione snuck a glance towards Draco. He was smiling brilliantly and his eyes were shining. He looked at her and his smile grew wider. Without her realizing it, so did her's.
* * * *
"Oh, Hermione, you were beautiful!" Ginny squealed, throwing her arms around her best friend and hugging her. "You did great up there! Really, despite everything, you were brilliant". She pulled away and looked at Draco. "Both of you were". Both the 'seventeen' year-olds smiled at her and then bent down in front of their son, who was standing beside Ginny.
Hermione wrapped her arms around his little frame and hugged him tightly. "I've missed you." The little boy hugged her back and said, "I missed you both two."
Draco placed a hand on his son's back and said. "We haven't been spending much time with you, have we?" Aaron only looked down, not meeting their eyes. "How about we go out tomorrow morning? What say? We'll spend the morning and afternoon somewhere together."
"Dad, even if we stay at home together, Ill be happy", Aaron grinned, hugging his father tightly. Hermione smiled and stood up, smoothening out her black formal dress. Draco stood up, lifting Aaron up with him and carrying him.
"That's right", The redhead nodded. "Ill see you both later, okay? It's really late and James and Lily must be driving Harry insane." Draco and Hermione nodded and waved goodbye to her before getting into their own car and driving off.
That night, with full intentions of spending as much time as they could with their son, they slept in Aaron's room. Hermione slept beside Aaron on the single bed, him curled into her and Draco took the floor on a mattress.
The next morning, all three of them went out with the Potter kids and Harry and Ginny to a carnival that had been set up near-by. All of them took off from their work and school respectively. Draco and Hermione had their final walk that evening and so were taking full advantage of their free time with the others. There was not one awkward moment between any of them and most of the morning and afternoon consisted of laughter and fun. A certain redhead witch saw a change in the 'seventeen' year old couple and that change brought a smile to her face every time she looked their way.
* * *
"Why do you keep asking me that?" Hermione asked, smoothening out her dress. It was a deep purple dress that had thin straps across her shoulders. It went up to a little above her knees in the front and flowed to the floor at the back and was body hugging. She had to place a concealment charm over her stomach to hide any signs of her pregnancy. Her hair was tied to the side, flowing over her right shoulder and her face had been done as it had the previous two days, except for her eyes which had a deep purple eyeshadow. Draco was dressed in a matching purple tuxedo and kept grumbling to Hermione about how he dressed in only black suits. He didn't wear a tie and instead buttoned up the tuxedo jacket.
Draco shrugged and made a face at his suit in the mirror.
"It really isn't that bad!" Hermione laughed, slipping on her wedges.
"You're not the one wearing a purple suit so shut it", Draco grumbled, tying up his shoe laces. He stood up straight and handed her a little black chip.
"What's this?" She asked, turning it around on her palm.
"It's what Ginny calls a microphone. Put it in your ear and Ill have the other bit and I can talk to you while you're up there", He explained, taking out an identical chip from his previous trousers' pocket.
Hermione smiled, putting it securely in her ear. "That's very considerate of you."
He suddenly looked highly uncomfortable. "Uh... It was Ginny's idea any way." He placed his own in his ear and clicked a small button to turn it on. She followed his actions.
"Hermione up in fifty!" Someone called from outside. She opened the door and hurried outside, followed by Draco.
"Good luck", He finally said, forty four seconds later. She smiled at him and whispered a quick "thank you" before stepping out on stage.
She froze as soon as she saw the people. Everyone was... looking at her. She wanted to move forward but she couldn't.
"Granger, what're you doing? Nothing happened! Go!" She heard Draco's voice in her ear.
She couldn't even respond. The entire hall was quiet. All eyes were on her. And she? She was frozen to the spot.
"Granger, move!" Draco said, "You can do this! You know Im RIGHT here for you. Nothing will go wrong today. Just go! You'll do great. Please, Granger. I trust you can do this. If anything happens, Ill come and I won't let you fall. You know that!"
That's all she needed, for some reason. She found herself moving forward. Gliding. Draco telling her how well she was doing in her ear. Flashes of cameras. Approving looks on designers' faces. One foot in front of the other. One step after the other. And a brilliant smile on her face.
* * * *
This time, Hermione asked him the question-
He smirked at her and replied, "When am I not?" She smiled a genuine smile and finally feeling confidence surge through her veins once more, they stepped out onto the stage once again. Their last walk... for now at least.
"You know Im pretty damn proud of you", He said in an undertone as they stopped at the front of the stage.
"Oh the joys of having a Malfoy proud of me", Hermione said, biting back a laugh.
"You know what I mean!" He said, elbowing her lightly in a way that nobody could see. Hermione didn't respond. She did know...
They split apart as the designer of the entire event stepped through. She gestured to the tall, long-brown-haired man with her left arm as she was taught and Draco did the same with his right arm. The entire audience rose to their feet, clapping hard. The models from all three days were on stage too, clapping with the audience. Draco caught Hermione's eye and mouthed "Finally over" and she nodded, smiling.
She didn't quite know if she was happy about it or not though...
* * * *
"That was so brilliant!" Ginny said, hugging Hermione tightly. "By the way, Aaron said he would like to stay over at our place with James again tonight." Hermione's eyes widened.
"I think he's realized that there's a lot you and Draco need to sort out. Alone. So yes, really." Ginny nodded.
"Okay..." Hermione nodded, still not completely used to how her son's mind functioned.
"Where's Draco?" The redhead asked, looking around Hermione.
"Just went to speak to a few designers and getting some stuff sorted. He said he'll be home a few minutes after me. I can't keep my eyes open another second so Im going home."
"Want me to drop you?" Ginny asked.
"Im apparating home, Malfoy's driving back. Ill be fine", Hermione smiled, hugging her friend tightly.
"I hope you remember that Hayley and Ron's engagement party is this Saturday", Ginny said.
"Oh yeah! 29th isn't it?" Hermione asked and Ginny nodded. "Where is it going to be?"
"Parkinson Manor, 7 o clock".
"Right, we'll be there for sure."
Exchanging goodbyes, Hermione went to the apparating spot and dissapparated, secretly hoping that Draco would hurry home. She didn't quite fancy the idea of being alone in their house so late at night with mimumum knowledge of their surroundings.
Or was that just an excuse? Did she really want him home because she was scared? Or because...
She shook her head and switched the living room lights on. She couldn't afford to think such things!
She went to take a step forward when she froze. Her hands immediately fiddled with the zip of her handbag, willing it to just open up quickly. She immediately wished that Draco was with her just then. One thing she did NOT expect to see when she arrived home was a certain somebody sitting on her couch.
A certain somebody named Ritch Mcenzee.
Oooooh welcome BACK Ritch! Whats going to happen now, do you think?! Thank you all so so much for all your reviews for You Again, my new one-shot and for EHFAR too. Their Reason to Live should have come out so if you haven't seen that yet, go check it out EHFAR readers ;) So the Modelling Project is OFFICIALLY complete and it was quite cute writing it. I think i slacked off a bit towards the end as i have my exams going on and barely have proper time to write. Ive written a Hunger Games inspired section for hpff and Im debating whether to put it up or not :P
The next chapter, by the way, will not only have Hermione's encounter with Ritch but also Hayley and Ron's engagement party in it. Ive got SO much planned for that its awesome stuff. Let's just say, if you think these were developments in their relationship- you should just about be dying for the next chappie- it's very heartbreakingly intense ;)
And I know this wasn't a very long chapter and I'm sorry for that, but the next will be longer don't worry!
Thanks again and do review this chapter :)
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